Thanksgiving–How Can It Change Your Life?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

We all hear so much about giving thanks, and what a great idea it is. But really, does it make a big difference?

You bet it does!

Whether things are going very well or very poorly in life, anyone can find something to be grateful for. Regardless of the circumstances, feeling grateful will help you when you’re feeling discouraged. Giving thanks will really enhance the good feelings when you’re in a positive frame of mind.

Some people experience much gratitude than others.  But wait for it – research has shown that those who experience more gratitude do way better both emotionally and physically.

So what should one do with this information? Well, look for things to be grateful for.  Even in the face of something quite difficult, one can find things to be grateful for. It’s all about that “silver lining”.  For example, someone in the hospital can be grateful for a nurse’s kindness, good medical care, or someone’s visit.  Someone stuck on a delayed airplane can feel grateful for the rich conversation he had with a fellow passenger.  Someone grieving the death of a loved one after a prolonged illness will be comforted to know that their loved one is no longer suffering. Someone experiencing interpersonal conflict can be grateful for the personal growth it is leading to: becoming more tolerant of differences, more assertive, or more forgiving.  There are so many inspiring stories of people facing huge hardships who were able to look at the positive things and feel gratitude for them.  One of these is Victor Frankl, who describes his experiences in a concentration camp in his book, “Man’s Search For Meaning”. It sold over 50 million copies. I highly recommend it!

There are many things that we tend to take for granted that we can genuinely feel grateful for.  These include health, family, friends, work, nature, art, food, comforts, challenges, personal growth, and even life itself.

Gratitude tends to go along with a belief that you are loved and deserving, and that the Universe is benevolent.  These are healthy and adaptive beliefs.

When you share with others what you are thankful for, you invite them into gratitude too. What an awesome way to get closer to those you love.

Over time, as you practice noticing things you can be grateful for, it becomes a natural habit, and an incredibly healthy one that makes you happier.  And over time, it can become an even stronger habit!

 

RELIEF VS ESCAPE

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There are many ways to escape a negative emotional experience:  alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, food, gambling, shopping, sexual experiences,sleep, and work to name some.

If you use or have used one or some of these methods to escape, you probably don’t know how else to cope.  Don’t be hard on yourself, because you were just trying to get by in the only way that you knew how.

When you deal with an upset in a constructive way so that you feel better, that is relief.  Tools on this blog that provide relief include CREATING A POWERFUL INNER RESOURCE, and EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE.  With the help of such tools, you can feel better by, for example, no longer taking something personally, feeling safe as you feel that the danger was in the past, no longer worrying but instead trusting that things will be OK and that you will be able to handle things, feeling that your best is good enough, being able to forgive yourself/another, etc.  Talking to someone trustworthy can be helpful.  You may want to see a therapist for some help.  Programs that provide support have helped many.

Think of your psyche as being an infant that sometimes has an unmet need, making it cry a shrill cry that you cannot stand.  Taking an escape route is like listening to loud music with some headphones.  You no longer have to hear the crying temporarily while the headphones are on, but the baby’s needs remain unmet.  Ignored, the crying becomes more intense and frantic.  Relief is like picking up the baby, determining what it needs, such as milk, a burp, a diaper change, some rocking, etc., soothing it by giving it what it needs, and enjoying the peace of a quiet content baby.  Not only are you not hurting your ears with the loud music, but you haven taken good care of your precious baby.  The baby is your emotional self, which is indeed precious.  It deserves to be well cared for, and if it’s ignored, the built-up unmet emotional needs add up and cause more distress and trouble.

Also, when there is addiction, there is often another mental health issue that a person is trying to cope with.  Examples of this include ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (excess worry), depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, panic disorder, and social anxiety.  These are all treatable with medication as well as therapy.  So seeing your doctor is a good idea.

 

TAMING WORRY

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Many people  are worriers, and know of family members who are worriers, as it tends to run in families, so may not think much of it.   However, depending on the degree of worrying, it can be quite distressing or interfere with functioning, in which case it is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD.  Some of the symptoms that may go along with the excessive worry in GAD are:  restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating,  mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, and symptoms of anxiety in general, such as lightheadedness, foggy or spacy head, racing thoughts, dry mouth, tight throat, tight chest, shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, shakiness, flushing, sweating, sweaty palms, discomfort in the solar plexus, including butterflies, nausea, cramps and diarrhea, pressure over the bladder, needing to urinate frequently when there may not be much there, tingling in the extremities, and weakness in the legs.

Obviously you do not need to have all or even many of these symptoms to have GAD.  Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition which is treatable with medication and therapy, so you don’t need to continue suffering unnecessarily.

Worrying is not only useless; it is harmful.  Whereas some people may believe at an unconscious level or even a conscious level that it is protective, it is in NO way protective, nor does it change anything except for causing suffering to the one worrying and those around.  Planning, on the other hand, which is done from a calm place, if it’s necessary, is very useful.

Apparently, about NINETY FIVE PERCENT of what people worry about NEVER takes place, and the other 5% we have no control over and is not affected by the worry (except in possibly a negative way if you believe in the manifestation of negative energy).  Worry is just a bad a habit, and fortunately can be unlearned.  The majority of the time, things go well, and when we can trust that we  can deal with what might occur (which is unpredictable), there is no need to worry.

Many people who have a habit of worrying know other family members and people who worry, and so assume that it’s natural to worry, and are surprised to find out that not everybody would worry in a certain circumstance.

Life with less worry is much easier and more pleasant for an individual and for those around them.  More time and energy can be freed up to be enjoyed and devoted to constructive, enjoyable, or creative endeavors, and to just enjoying being present in the moment with a relaxed body.

A good anti-worry antidote is to install in your body, either with the inner resource or Emotional Freedom Technique or both (both articles on this blog ): “The past is over,  I am safe now.  So I expect things to go well, and I can handle whatever might happen.  So there is no need to worry.”

Even if you’re used to it, it doesn’t make it pleasant.  If you  feel your life would be improved significantly with less of the above symptoms, I encourage you to get help, as both medication and therapy can help, with a combination of the two often the most helpful.  Your family doctor could be a good place to start.

 

A QUICK & SIMPLE METHOD OF GROUNDING

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This is a very quick and simple method to get out of your head and into your body, enjoying calmness in the present moment of the here and now.

Simply choose something in your environment that you can sense with one of your senses.  For example, it can be something that you can see, hear, feel, smell or taste. You may want to spend a little bit of time exploring it.  For example, if you are looking at a flower, you may study its colors, shape, texture, and so on.  As you focus all of your attention on sensing it, just pay attention to what you can notice in your body.

You will notice evidence of relaxation.  This is because sensing something brings us into the here and now of the present moment.  The sensing occurs in the here and now. It actually causes a physiological shift. It diminishes the sense that something is wrong, and helps us more accurately discern what degree of danger there is.  It thus acts as an antidote to trauma.

So why not be a friend to yourself and your body, and get in the habit of using this very simple method of eliciting a relaxation response?  And when you are upset, why stay upset and perhaps act in ways that you may later regret, when you can just  focus on anything pleasant or neutral in your environment to reduce your activation and become more grounded?

Good luck in making this very simple method a healthy habit in your life!A

ARE YOU LOOKING UP OR DOWN?

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Please do this as an experiential exercise in order to get the most out of it.

Think of a time when you felt inferior.  Sit down and imagine looking up at others.  Allow the feeling of inferiority to be there now.  Notice how it feels in your body.  How would you describe it?  Notice the degree of unpleasantness there is.  Notice how familiar this experience is to you, and whether the familiarity of it has changed over time.  We will say that in this experience you are looking upward at others as somehow superior to you, and we will label it as “A”.

Now think of a time when you felt superior. This can include a time you were judgemental or angry.  Stand up and imagine looking down at someone.  Allow the feeling to be there now.  Notice how this experience feels in your body.  How would you describe it?  Notice if it’s pleasant or unpleasant.  Compare the degree of unpleasantness with that of “A”.  Of the two, which feels preferable?  Notice how familiar this experience is to you.  How familiar is it in comparison with the familiarity of   “A”? Has the familiarity of it changed over time?  We will say that in this experience you are looking downward at others as being somehow inferior to you, and we will label it as “B”.

Now think of a time when you felt equal to another.  Imagine being on the same level as someone.  Allow the feeling to be there now.  Notice how this experience feels in your body.  How would you describe it?  Is it pleasant or unpleasant?  How familiar is this experience?  How familiar is it in comparison to “A” and “B”?  Has its familiarity changed over time?  We will say that in this experience you are looking straight across at another, neither looking upward nor downward, and perceiving yourself as neither inferior nor superior, but rather as equal, and we will label it as “C”.

Did you find that the experience of feeling equal was by far the most pleasant, feeling relaxed, at ease, and “right”?  Did you find that “B” was not ideal, but was preferable to “A”? In “B”, people tend to feel big/powerful, and less constricted that in “A”, but it tends to feel uncomfortable or wrong.  In “A”, people can feel small, they may feel like hiding, and they may feel tension, constriction or other unpleasant sensations in the body.

Making Sense of  & Using Your Experience

Equality (“C”) is based on the truth that we are all of equal worth.  That is why it feels so right.  When we are not coming from an ego driven place, and therefore equal is available to us, it is always chosen because it is by far the most preferable.

When we are trapped by ego, equality (“C”) is not available to us, and so we must feel either inferior (“A”) or superior (“B”).  Can you see how these two are actually flip sides of the same coin?  Because “B” feels preferable to “A”, sometimes the insecurity of the ego will unconsciously take us into superiority or judgement, in order to escape inferiority that feels so bad.

So when you witness a bully or an arrogant or critical individual, you can know that it is their insecurity that is driving  their “B” behavior.

Also, you can watch your own experience.  Celebrate and enjoy it when you are feeling equal.  When you notice yourself feeling either inferior or superior, don’t trust it, and don’t stay there, but shift into the truth of equality.  If someone’s behavior is inviting you to go into feeling inferior, don’t accept the invitation.  Rather see what is happening, know that it is their insecurity driving their behavior, and stay feeling equal.  You may even have compassion for them from here.  When you are judging others for being judgemental, you have been lured into feeling superior (“B”).  Catch yourself and come back into equality, feeling understanding and compassion for those others instead of judgement.  Likely, their environment has influenced them.  When you judge them, you’re operating from your insecure ego.

JUDGMENT: THE GOOD,THE BAD & THE UGLY

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inTo clarify what I am referring to, passing judgment onto someone is to look down on them, seeing them as somehow not okay.  This is obviously different from having “good judgment”.

Also, separating a behavior from the person doing it and seeing the behavior as negative while having compassion for the person, is not judgement.

So for the type of judgment we are talking about, there is actually no good; there is only bad and

Of all the harmful things in the world, one of the worst, I think, is judgement. One of the reasons it is so harmful is because it is everywhere. Wherever there are people, you will find judgement. Another reason is because it is so insidious.

Individuals judge others. Individuals judge themselves. Groups judge others. Races judge each other. Countries judge each other.

And the result is conflict everywhere from an intrapersonal to interpersonal to a global level. There is hatred of one’s self, hatred of other persons, hatred of groups and types of people who are different in different ways, and hatred of nations, resulting in war and bloodshed.

Judgement of one’s self is the root cause of shame, which can lead to a whole host of suffering, including depression, anxiety, isolation, substance abuse, behavioral problems, problems with the law, and suicide.

Judgement is the root cause of all types of discrimination, whether over race, religion, sexual orientation, or whatever.

Judgement is the root cause of exclusion, bullying, and inhumane treatment of others.

Judgement is dangerous because people often feel self-righteous, not realizing that whatever they are judging is not as bad as the judgement itself that they are taking part in.

It is also dangerous because, as we said, it is so ubiquitous and insidious. I have more than once caught myself being judgemental of people because they were so judgemental! Or once a person becomes attuned to how much self-judgement there is, they may fall into the trap of judging themselves for self-judgement.

Feeling judged, whether it is from within or the outside, creates a noxious feeling of feeling unacceptable. That’s why it can lead to a lot of misery. And when people act out of that ungrounded state, it definitely does not bring out the best in them. They may react in some form of anger or violence towards others or themselves, or may withdraw or isolate.

Judgement is a product of the human ego, which is by nature insecure. Looking down upon someone else at an unconscious level makes us feel better about ourselves. The ego is very good at potentially using any difference in order to do this. Because we all have an ego, and are thus all prone to judgement, we need to be on a constant watch for this destructive activity.

The Antidote

 When we are grounded and know that we are okay, acceptable, and loveable, just as we are, we no longer need to judge. We can notice things and behaviors that we don’t prefer, but we can keep those separate from the people involved. Where appropriate, we can feel compassion for the people rather than judgement. We can enjoy feeling the reality of our equality with others, not needing to feel the inferiority nor the superiority of the ego.

I believe that the world is full of well-meaning people. Yet what a mess we have made of things! The reason, in my opinion, is that there is too much ego and thus judgement operating. If everyone only stopped being as concerned with others’ wrongs, and really focused instead on trying to keep themselves as free of judgement as possible, the world could be a much better place.

Common wise aphorisms expressing the same sentiment:

Live and let live.

Vive les differences.

From the Bible: Take the log from your own eye before you worry about the speck in your brother’s eye

So humbly practice compassion for yourself and for others, and enjoy feeling the truth of your equality with everyone. Nobody is perfect, including you, and that is okay.

 

 

JUST TURN AROUND

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JUST TURN AROUND

Imagine you are in the midst of a cycling trip from Lake Louise to Jasper, Alberta. This is, by the way, reputed to be the most beautiful and rugged stretch of road in Canada. It has spectacular mountain views and wide shoulders, and I am thrilled to have cycled it with my family. Being a mountain highway, while it is undoubtedly beautiful, it is also full of long, steep hills, and is hard work.

Imagine that you have travelled one fifth of the way there.

Notice how you feel as you face forwards toward Jasper: You are probably aware that you have a long way to go, with many hills and two major mountain passes in front of you to conquer. You may feel daunted, or unsure of your capabilities. The distance might make you feel tired, discouraged, or even hopeless, wondering if you’ll ever make it. You may feel some anxiety about the road ahead, and what challenges it might bring.

Now turn around, and face where you have come from: Lake Louise. Acknowledge the distance that you have already travelled, and notice how this feels. You might feel well deserved pride at what you have accomplished. You might also feel relieved that you were able to cover that distance, and that you are no longer at the start of your trip. You probably feel a growing sense of self-confidence, knowing that you can cover ground on this journey. You know that whatever you have learned on this journey so far is now a part of you, and cannot be unlearned.

Wow, simply turning around can sure make a huge difference in how you feel!

Now, face sideways, so that Lake Louise is to one side of you, and Jasper is to the other, and again, notice how you feel. You may notice that you now have a quiet confidence about the rest of your journey, knowing that what brought you this far and what you’ve learned and will continue to learn, will surely take you the rest of the way.

All of the above is true of the journey of personal growth. Many people focus too much energy on facing forward and being all too aware of how they are not where they want to be. They feeling anxiety, dissatisfaction, self-judgement and self-doubt. The journey ahead is daunting! At times like these it is wisest to simply turn around, and instead face where you have come from. Acknowledge the growth and learning that has already taken place. Appreciate your accomplishments to date. And then face sideways: celebrate how far you have come, while still being aware of where you would like to go. Feel the faith in yourself, and motivation, energy, and hope for the future. You realize that the desire for being the best you can be and to suffer less, which has brought you from where you were to where you are, will always be there to take you further and further along your journey.

You may then even realize that you are now just where you’re supposed to be.